‘Take a cab out to Malabar’: ICAC witness Tim Koelma warned he could be jailed for lying

Tim Koelma faces ICAC. Photo: Rob HomerA lunchtime visit to a Sydney jail was suggested to a key witness at a corruption inquiry as a reminder of the consequences of lying.

Tim Koelma, a former adviser to former energy minister Chris Hartcher, was asked repeatedly at the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Wednesday if he wanted to “recant” his evidence about an alleged Liberal Party slush fund.

“I want to give you every chance, Mr Koelma. Can I just remind you: even if you relent now and tell the truth, people might go easy on you,” counsel assisting the commission, Geoffrey Watson, SC, said. “It’s time to get out, Mr Koelma.”

Mr Koelma replied: “I’m not sure what you’re driving at.”

Mr Watson suggested Mr Koelma could “take a cab out to Malabar [Long Bay Correctional Centre] and have a good look” at lunchtime.

He then apologised and added: “I shouldn’t have said that to you, Mr Koelma.”

Commissioner Megan Latham said that Mr Koelma should be well aware of the consequences of giving false or misleading evidence to the ICAC, an offence punishable by up to five years in jail.

The ICAC is investigating allegations that Mr Koelma set up a “sham company” called Eightbyfive which issued “phony invoices” for services to property developers and other businesses to disguise the fact they were making illegal donations to the Liberal Party.

Property developers have been banned from making political donations in NSW since December 2009.

“Mr Hartcher was the mastermind of this,” Mr Watson suggested of the Eightbyfive scheme.

“Absolutely not,” Mr Koelma replied.

The inquiry has heard the money was used by Mr Hartcher and fellow Central Coast MPs Chris Spence and Darren Webber to bankroll their successful 2011 election campaign.

Mr Koelma, who started giving evidence on Tuesday, denied Eightbyfive was a “sham” and said he was providing media and political advice to the businesses he invoiced.

But he admitted on Wednesday that he lied to Branwell Black, a Liberal Party lawyer, about his involvement in the company when the party’s head office started investigating its activities in March 2012.

The inquiry heard he told Mr Black he had no involvement in Eightbyfive while simultaneously billing property developer group Gazcorp for tens of thousands of dollars for “sham” services.

Mr Watson said he had told Mr Black a “black-hearted lie”, a suggestion Mr Koelma denied.

Mr Koelma said Mr Black had confronted him with “unsourced” and “unsubstantiated” allegations and he gave a “cagey” response.

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